I’m not sure what sparked the tears. Maybe it was the book I was reading, a historical fiction painting the degradation of African-Americans in the beginning of the 20th century in Mississippi and the horror of lynching. Their hopelessness on one hand and their fight on the other. Whatever the case, the tears started to flow like the Mississippi River. The superwoman in me looked around to see if anyone had noticed. Then I shifted my seat on an angle and turned my body so that my back was to the other people enjoying the patio and their morning delights.
“Your life is a big fat mess,” I mumbled to myself. But that’s nothing new, it’s been a mess for as long as I've known it. Nothing has ever come easy for me. Not one damn thing! A childhood plagued by sexual, physical and emotional abuse, I became a grown-up as a child, trying to ensure my safety in a chaotic environment. I became my own bread winner at age 17, the October of my senior year of high school when Mama locked me out because I was 15 minutes late for my curfew.
Yes, it has been a mess, but, honestly, I’m used to whatever this life has rendered me. So I became mad at my tears for betraying me at my favorite breakfast spot. Every time I dried my eyes and thought I was moving on, they started to flow again. “This is not cute, girly,” I told myself. “Pull it together. Process whatever this is and move on.” Lately, it seems like life has become harder. “Lord, I need a break. For Real,” I mumbled to myself as the tears dropped onto the pages of my book.
But that’s an old problem I should be used to,” I told myself. My finances, if that’s what I can call them are in shambles. The loss of my book deal sent me on a downward spiral that I have not been able to climb out of. Yes, I was feeling sorry for myself. I started to recognize the signs as I made the list of my sorry ass life in my head. No family, but yes I have friends. But what about the people who come in your life under the pretense of support, then use you, violate your trust and move on to the next best thing. I’ve had my share of those lately too. “It is what it is Rae,” I mumbled. “Lord, I need a break!” I whined, “Do you here me up there? I need a break!”
Sheryl Lee Ralph. In the last few years, at my weakest moments, I replay her story in my head and her courage gives me the courage to go on. This South African woman told the story of how she was grabbed on her way to worked and gang raped. That's how she contracted HIV. You could hear yourself breath as she explained, “These men watched me undress, by knife point, and then they made me hold my stockings so they could cut them to tie me up. And one by one they raped me. When one man had finished another man climbed on top of me. Another man walking by that morning tried to rescue me, but they cut him. And one by one, they started all over again. When the police finally came, they had to pull one man from on top of me. The police arrested the men.”
And you could hear a sigh of relief. Every woman in the room exhaled. And after a long pause she said, “After the police pulled the man off me, I got dressed, and then I went to work.” A silent sadness swiped the room and tears immediately flowed from every woman’s face, both African-American and South African alike. We instantly felt her pain. After another paused, she said, “If I had not gone to work, my family would not have eaten; my mothers, my father and my siblings.”